The bad news for the Unlimited Titans after their three-wicket loss to the Dolphins at the weekend is that it has almost certainly knocked them out of contention for the Sunfoil Series title; the good news is that coach Rob Walter is nevertheless proud of their performance and believes they are steadily improving in four-day cricket.
The Titans, with three wins in eight matches, are now third on the log with two rounds remaining, 13.36 points behind the second-placed Dolphins and 30.04 points behind the bizhub Highveld Lions. That means even if they win their remaining two matches with a massive haul of points, say 40 in two games, the Lions will still only need 10 points from two games to beat them.
“Realistically it’s probably the end of the road, although we do still have a mathematical chance,” Walter admitted to The Citizen on Monday. “But we’ve focused on really improving our four-day disciplines this season and it’s important that our results reflect that, so we really want to push hard for second.”
On paper, the Titans should have a side that regularly wins titles, but the likes of Farhaan Behardien, Marchant de Lange, Albie Morkel, Dean Elgar and David Wiese have only made limited appearances due to national and SA A call-ups as well as injuries, never mind the fact that AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Morne Morkel barely play for the franchise at all these days.
So Walter, who took over the coaching reins in 2013, has had to rebuild a competitive four-day outfit and is pleased with the progress that has been made.
“We were last in the Sunfoil Series in 2012/13 and fourth last season, so we’re aiming to win five games this season to finish even higher. We won three games last season and none the season before and once we learn to play the big moments a bit better, then we can finish right on top of the pile. Getting those five victories is hugely important for us,” Walter said.
And the Titans would probably have won their game against the Dolphins were it not for a brilliant stand of 116 for the seventh wicket between Morne van Wyk and Calvin Savage that carried the visitors from 58 for six to the brink of victory.
“From 60 for six, we would have backed ourselves to close out the game, but Morne and Calvin batted really well and showed a lot of resilience. We had a missed opportunity from Savage before he had scored 20, but I was really proud of the effort from the bowlers,” Walter said.
A superb burst of three wickets for one run in two overs from Rowan Richards had put the Titans in charge and the left-arm paceman is their leading wicket-taker this season with 29 at 27.65.
“When he gets on a roll he can be really devastating. Only the very top bowlers are able to replicate that every time they play, but where Rowan has journeyed forward this year is being able to deliver consistent performances when he’s not getting something special going,” Walter said.
As far as the batting goes, the Dolphins were able to gobble up wickets in clumps in both innings and an extra 50 runs is what eats away at Walter as he considers the game.
“If we had just been a bit smarter, we could have had at least another 50 runs. It’s disappointing, but the Dolphins were just 20% better in the crucial moments like Roelof van der Merwe’s run out in the second innings.”
“But for Dean Elgar to score a hundred on that surface was an unbelievable effort and Qaasim Adams again showed what he is capable of and it’s great that he’s getting consistency into his game.
“Theunis de Bruyn and Henry Davids had a very good stand in the first innings, but both got out to really good balls,” Walter said.